We have some of the best catfishing in America in our area. I was shocked to learn how many choose to throw a catfish back instead of enjoying the succulent fillets.

That said, I agree with catch and release too, but like a good meal even better.

Filleting a channel catfish or other bigger cat is different than most fish. Catfish have big bones where most fillets start at the collar, so you have to cut around that area.

Next, slice down the spine and worked down the fillet until you break free of the rounded area just below the spine where a lot of meat in often wasted. Next fillet the tail area like any fish. Flip the fillet over, slice off the skin and then trim out the ribs.

Here are some simple recipes:

Catfish or Carp Chowder

Ingredients

• 3 to 4 pounds of catfish or carp fillets

• 1 bottle Lawry’s Herb & Garlic Marinade with Lemon Juice

• 1 large onion, diced

• 6 large potatoes, 1/2-inch cubes

• 1 stick butter

• 3 to 4 tablespoons cooking oil

• 1/4 cup flour

• Two 16-oz. bottles clam juice

• 2 gallons whole milk

• 1-pint heavy cream

• Garlic powder to taste

• Seasoned salt to taste

• Garlic pepper to taste

Instructions

Cut the fish fillets in quarter-sized pieces and combine fish and Lawry’s marinade in a resealing bag. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Sauté onion in oil. Add enough oil to also cook the fish, sprinkling with garlic powder and seasoned salt.

Remove the fish and onions and set aside as soon as they are done. Don’t overcook the fillets or they will fall apart in the chowder. Boil potatoes in water with a dash of seasoned salt until tender (about 20 minutes). Set aside. In a large soup pot, melt butter (be careful not to scorch). Add flour to form a roux. Once the mixture has bubbled for a minute, add clam juice. The mixture will thicken. Add two cups of milk.

When the mixture comes to a boil, add cream and reduce heat. Add remainder of milk until desired consistency is reached. Be careful not to overheat, as the milk will curdle. Add seasoned salt and garlic pepper to taste. Let simmer 15 minutes, then add drained potatoes. Just before serving, add the fish and onion mixture.

 

Pan-Fried Catfish

Ingredients

• Vegetable oil or olive oil

• 4 medium catfish fillets

• 1 cup cold milk

• 1 cup yellow cornmeal

• 2 to 3 teaspoons salt

• 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

• 1 teaspoon red (cayenne) pepper

Instructions

To clean a whole catfish, remove skin from the catfish, then slice the fillet across to a thickness of no more than 1/4 inch. The secret to frying catfish is using thin fillets less than 1/4-inch thick.

An hour-long soak in buttermilk washes away the muddy flavor from freshwater fish such as catfish and tilapia.

Rinse the fillets under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. In a pie plate, lay fillets and pour milk over the top. In another pie plate, combine cornmeal, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.

Remove the fillets one at a time from the milk and roll in the cornmeal mixture to coat evenly; place on a large platter to dry, leaving space between each fillet. Let dry at least 5 minutes.

Heat the oil or butter in a large skillet. Add the coated catfish filets and cook for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, sprinkling additional salt on the catfish after each turn. Cook until golden brown and fish flakes easily with a fork.

Drain on paper towels. After draining, place the fillets on another platter covered with paper towels; place in preheated oven to keep warm while frying the remaining fillets. The fillets will remain hot and crisp for as long as 35 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

 

Deep-Fried Catfish

Ingredients

• Peanut oil

• 4 medium freshwater catfish fillets

• 1 cup cold milk

• 1 cup yellow cornmeal

• 2 to 3 teaspoons salt

• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1 teaspoon red (cayenne) pepper

Instructions

Use enough peanut oil to completely cover fish while frying. An hour-long soak in buttermilk washes away the muddy flavor from freshwater fish such as catfish and tilapia.

In a large pot or deep fat fryer, preheat peanut oil to 357 degrees. Preheat oven to 200 degrees .

Rinse the fillets under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. In a pie plate, lay fillets and pour milk over the top. In another pie plate, combine cornmeal, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.

Remove the fillets one at a time from the milk and roll in the cornmeal mixture to coat evenly; place on a large platter to dry, leaving space between them.

Let dry at least 5 minutes. Place 4 to 6 pieces of catfish at a time in the hot oil to fry (don't crowd the fryer or the oil temperature will drop too much). Fry 6 to 7 minutes per side or until the catfish fillets are a light golden brown and the meat flakes easily with a fork. A simple test for properly fried catfish is to pick up a fried fillet by one end and not have it bend or wilt.

Remove from the oil and place on paper towels to drain. After draining, place the fillets on another platter covered with paper towels; place in preheated oven to keep warm while frying the remaining fillets. The fillets will remain hot and crisp for as long as 35 minutes.

 

– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at kieserkenneth@gmail.com.